Am I Selfish for Travelling?

Apr 24

Thailand sunsetTravel and far flung destinations are always on my mind; they always have been. While my friends dreamed of future nuptials, careers and babies, I was consumed by thoughts of countries and continents, of foreign cultures and unfamiliar food.

One thing comes to mind when someone asks what my passion is: travel.

So am I selfish for making my dreams of travelling a reality? Am I a bad person for making my family wonder and worry about me while I take off to gallivant around the globe? Does chasing my dream justify the fact that I’m abandoning my friends and family for extended periods of time? Am I crazy for not wanting to settle down?

These types of questions serve as a source of constant stress. Sometimes I feel so much guilt for wanting longing to be anywhere but here, when here is where all the people who love and care about me are. And now that I’m only days away from moving to Edinburgh for an indefinite period of time, I’m feeling even more guilty.

It’s not that I don’t love my hometown, and it’s not that I don’t want to be near my family and friends everyday – I really do. But the longing and yearning inside of me is only quieted when I travel; it’s the only thing that brings me peace and contentedness, and it’s the only thing that makes sense in my mind.

After five years of travelling as much as time and money would allow, my wanderlust hasn’t subsided, and I still want to travel – now more than ever. The more of the world I see, the more I want to see. I will forever crave exciting adventures and new experiences. I will be constantly curious of other cultures and people. My heart will always ache for certain cities and countries. I will forever pine for foreign and faraway destinations.

Essentially, I can’t imagine myself settling down anytime in the near future. A life without travel is something I can’t comprehend, something that would leave me feeling hollow and unfulfilled.

It may seem as though I’m thinking only of myself by choosing an unconventional life filled with travel, but travel has taught me to be the opposite of selfish. I’ve become acutely aware of how lucky I am; the life of abundance and opportunity I’ve been given has never been more apparent to me, and I’m so grateful for it. I’ve become more independent, more outgoing, more compassionate, and less materialistic. I’ve become a stronger person as a whole, and I have travel to attribute for helping me grow into the person I am today.

If people were able to understand what travel has taught me, and what I’ve become because of it, would they still think I’m being selfish? Would they still say I’m just running away from “real life,” trying to postpone the inevitable? Would they still judge me for choosing to be away from my friends and family for long periods of time?

I hope not.

Do you think long-term travel is selfish? How do you cope with friends and family who don’t understand your desire to travel?


  • Reply veraisworking Apr 24 at 3:44 pm

    I have never been abroad for a long time but I think that it must surely be an open-minding experience, I would actually love to do it one day! And well, it means being away from your beloved ones but that doesn’t make you selfish, to my mind. Great post! Have a lovely day,

    The Flash Window | Bloglovin

    • Reply ashleywanders Apr 26 at 9:30 pm

      Thank you, Vera! I hope you are able to live abroad someday- I’m sure it will be an eye-opening experience!

  • Reply wanderingwithwine Apr 26 at 1:30 am

    I love this post. It’s so honest and I can definitely relate. While I’ve never moved overseas or spent more than a month or two away from home, traveling is my passion too and it’s a hard passion to put out. So if exploring the world for an indefinite amount of time is what makes you happy, then you do you! Your fam and friends will understand. You don’t want to live in the ‘what ifs’ or ‘I wish I would haves’ of the world!

    • Reply ashleywanders Apr 26 at 9:41 pm

      Thanks so much, Katy, and I’m glad to hear you can relate! I completely agree with your sentiments- leaving friends and family is always difficult, but I can’t stand thinking about the ‘what ifs’.

  • Reply Angela Dowin Apr 26 at 1:29 pm

    I don’t think it is selfish. If you live your life for someone else then you’re not going to be happy. You have to do what is best for you.

    • Reply ashleywanders Apr 26 at 9:45 pm

      You’re so right- I have to do what is best for me, despite the guilt. Thanks for your comment, Angela!

  • Reply unfinishedtravel Apr 26 at 4:06 pm

    There’s nothing crazy about not wanting to “settle down”. Travel is a great way to better understand the world and be a more tolerant, intelligent person. And being away from people physically doesn’t mean you’re far away from them in spirit!

    • Reply ashleywanders Apr 26 at 10:09 pm

      I love what you said about not being far away in spirit! And travel is definitely the best way to better understand the world! But, sadly I think there are some people who don’t fully understand how beneficial and transformative travel can be!

  • Reply Shelly @ Norway To Nowhere Apr 26 at 10:30 pm

    Oh how I relate to this right now. Have been struggling with these same thoughts lately and completely agree on travel being the only thing that quiets my mind. When I’m home I’m just constantly thinking about where to explore next, new people I’d like to meet, and new cultures I want to understand. But I do feel guilty for constantly leaving friends, family and my beloved dog behind. It’s a tough decision sometimes, but ultimately you have to follow your dreams and no matter what path you choose you’re bound to face obstacles and sacrifices either way. It’s all about taking the risk and putting yourself out there for something that you’re passionate about. 🙂

    • Reply ashleywanders Apr 29 at 4:33 pm

      I’m the same way, Shelly- when I’m home I’m always thinking about travel! It is a tough decision, but following my passion is worth the risk for sure! Thanks for your astute advice 🙂

  • Reply Anita Apr 26 at 11:45 pm

    Why would you feel guilty for enjoying your life to the fullest? As you said, travel has taught you the opposite of selfish, and it looks like it taught you so much more! If you could put all your loved ones in your suitcase, I am sure you would, so it is not about escaping from them/leaving them. Is it? People shouldn’t be judging you anyway. So enjoy enjoy enjoy, and I’m looking forward reading more of your posts!

    • Reply ashleywanders Apr 28 at 8:33 pm

      Thanks for the kind words, Anita! I agree- I shouldn’t be feeling guilty for living my life to the fullest, but it’s hard knowing that I’m not able to include my family and friends while I try to follow my passion. Thank you for reading 🙂

  • Reply Camille Apr 27 at 2:27 am

    Great post Ashley, I guess us travellers all struggle with this question at some point or other…but in the end, the way I see it, long-term travel is just another life choice, and why would it be any more selfish than seeking a corporate career (often mainly for status and money), going shopping every weekend, spending thousands on your “big day”, having children in the hope that they will “fulfill you”/take care of you in old age, etc? It’s not like you’re a billionaire yachting around the world, not giving anything back to society… I’m sure your travel lifestyle is full of compromises (in my case, less money, less comfort, etc), so I wouldn’t say you’re taking the easy way out, you’re just pursuing what makes you happy and you shouldn’t feel guilty about that! And tbh, I don’t think distance defines the quality of a relationship: although I dont’t see them often, I have a great relationship with my family – in fact, much better than some people who live next door to their parents or call them 20 times a day! 🙂

    • Reply ashleywanders Apr 28 at 8:14 pm

      Thank you, Camille! You make a great point about people being selfish while living a ‘conventional’ lifestyle. It’s ridiculous that spending tens of thousands of dollars on a wedding or a car is generally acceptable, but spending the same to travel long-term might cause people to question your motive. Thanks for the reassurance, and I’m glad to hear you still maintain such a great relationship with your family- I hope to do the same while I’m away!

  • Reply Justine of The Travel Lush Apr 27 at 6:39 am

    Over the past two years I’ve been in a constant battle with many of the things you’ve brought up here. It has been incredibly hard for my family back in California to understand my desire to want to travel long term and my ultimate decision to move to Jakarta. I actually JUST found out that I’ll be living in Cambodia for the next two years, and while my family says they’re excited for me, I know that in reality this decision is baffling and probably upsetting to them. In my experience it is so hard to get people to understand why I travel and I always feel incredibly selfish for my decision to constantly take off for long periods of time (although I know I shouldn’t). But I can totally relate to how you’re probably feeling right now as you prepare to take off until who knows when. Just know you’re not alone! I suppose it’s just something we have to cope with and come to terms with the fact that some people might never really get it. But I for one don’t think you’re selfish 😉 Safe travels Ashley!

    • Reply ashleywanders Apr 28 at 7:59 pm

      Wow, how exciting about Cambodia! It was easy to see how much you love it after reading your posts about Phnom Penh and Koh Rong, so I’m sure you will have a fantastic time there! I’m so glad you can relate, and it’s definitely comforting knowing I’m not the only one struggling with this constant guilt. I also have many friends and family members who say they’re excited for me, but I know they are thinking otherwise. It’s true that some people will just never understand, which is unfortunate! Thanks for your insightful comment, Justine, and best of luck in Cambodia! 🙂

  • Reply Velysia Zhang May 20 at 2:26 am

    I know how you feel exactly! Sometimes that thought comes to my mind as well. I feel selfish but on the other hand traveling has become a part of my life. I tried to balance my traveling and my family and make them understand I still love them even though I’m away.

    • Reply ashleywanders May 23 at 7:37 am

      I’m glad you know the feeling, Velysia! I’m currently trying to balance travelling while being an active part of my family and friends’ lives back home!

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